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The Right Thing To Do: Basic Readings in Moral Philosophy 5th Edition

24 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0073407401
ISBN-10: 0073407402
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About the Author

James Rachels, the distinguished American moral philosopher, was born in Columbus, Georgia, graduating from Mercer University in Macon in 1962. He received his Ph.D. in 1967 from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He taught at the University of Richmond, New York University, the University of Miami, Duke University, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he spent the last twenty-six years of his career. 1971 saw the publication of Rachels’ groundbreaking textbook Moral Problems, which ignited the movement in America away from teaching ethical theory towards teaching concrete practical issues. Moral Problems sold 100,000 copies over three editions. In 1975, Rachels wrote “Active and Passive Euthanasia,” arguing that the distinction so important in the law between killing and letting die has no rational basis. Originally appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine, this essay has been reprinted roughly 300 times and is a staple of undergraduate education. The End of Life (1986) was about the morality of killing and the value of life. Created from Animals (1990) argued that a Darwinian world-view has widespread philosophical implications, including drastic implications for our treatment of nonhuman animals. Can Ethics Provide Answers? (1997) was Rachels’ first collection of papers (others are expected posthumously). Rachels’ McGraw-Hill textbook, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, is now in its fourth edition and is easily the best-selling book of its kind. Over his career, Rachels wrote 5 books and 85 essays, edited 7 books and gave about 275 professional lectures. His work has been translated into Dutch, Italian, Japanese, and Serbo-Croatian. James Rachels is widely admired as a stylist, as his prose is remarkably free of jargon and clutter. A major theme in his work is that reason can resolve difficult moral issues. He has given reasons for moral vegetarianism and animal rights, for affirmative action (including quotas), for the humanitarian use of euthanasia, and for the idea that parents owe as much moral consideration to other people’s children as they do to their own. James Rachels died of cancer on September 5th, 2003, in Birmingham, Alabama.

STUART RACHELS is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alabama. He has revised several of James Rachels’ books, including Problems from Philosophy (second edition, 2009) and The Right Thing to Do (fifth edition, 2010), which is the companion anthology to this book. Stuart won the United States Chess Championship in 1989, at the age of 20, and he is a Bronze Life Master at bridge. His website is www.jamesrachels.org/stuart.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages; 5 edition (March 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0073407402
  • ISBN-13: 978-0073407401
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By owl on May 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
Natalia's response makes one wonder whether she herself was perhaps among the unfortunate babies born without a brain. Yes, if there were no other human beings in the world other than this one brainless baby, maybe I would keep the brainless baby around to help comfort me by reminding me of the lost human species. However, in fact there are lots of other human beings, most of whom have brains, so in reality there's no need to keep brainless babies around as pets.

Natalia also seems to be unaware of what a brain is. Brainless babies do not experience pain or anguish. (Nor do they experience pleasure.) Without a brain, 'you' have no experiences of any kind, no beliefs, no desires, and you don't care about anything to any degree. It's just a body lying in a hospital bed. There's no such thing as being insensitive to such a thing, any more than you can be insensitive to a rock.

If it's true that every object, including pebbles on the beach, has something to teach, then I'd rather learn from the rocks, which you don't have to expend thousands of dollars in medical bills to support.

I don't know about the previous editions of this book, but the present edition is really not biased, unless in the sense of being biased towards rationality and quality. In the case of issues where there is significant debate in moral philosophy, there are articles explaining both sides (e.g., abortion). In some cases, there's only one article (e.g., on homosexuality), but these are the issues where there is almost no disagreement in the field, and you'd have to scrape the bottom of the barrel, admitting really low-quality pieces, if you insisted on having an opposing article.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Fidelity on September 9, 2004
My sister bought this book as a text book for a introduction into philosophy class. I found it on the family book shelf later on and started flipping through it. The book is well written and interesting; although for the price there must be something better. I came on Amazon today looking for books to read on long trip and this came to mind. It has been a few years since I first read it and I'd like to read it again. I highly suggest you read this book; regardless of the other reviewer (who's two critizisms come from the first chapter).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By ltche on December 22, 2011
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I just started back to school and am so glad i decided to check out the textbooks that Amazon has to offer. These books would of cost me roughly $60 each but i found them on here for $13!!!! And I'll be able to sell them back and get points towards my next semesters books! The books arrived in less than a week and in great condition!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Andrew on February 8, 2012
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This book provides a detailed analysis of the moral and ethical problems that our world faces. There are relatable examples that make learning moral theory fun and even provocative. This book is a great read for those that want to learn the moral theories that have been considered by centuries of philosophers. The idea that deciding exactly what the right thing to do has stumped mankind since the beginning of time is one worth pondering.
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19 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Five Red Apples on October 7, 2004
DISCLAIMER: The 4 rating is a not-so-random guess, as I haven't read the whole book yet, but had to put a number down in order to give this critique of Natalia's post. As soon as I bought this book, I read the section on Infanticide, which Natalia so poorly criticized. Natalia's criticism is so poor that you don't even need to read the article to critique her criticism, but I thought I would read it first in case anyone thought differently. She basically argues that even in cases where the baby is a 'vegetable', that it's still good to keep him or her alive because of the benefits they will serve to others. Is there a less compassionate and more selfish position possible than this? I've read a few articles from this book, mainly essays by professional philosophers who give at least strong, if not compelling, arguments for their positions. Rachels himself is good philosopher, specifically a good ethicist, so I recommend him for the strength of his arguments and the lucidity of his writing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By cphtgirl on February 5, 2012
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The book came in great condition. I received it in the mail very quickly. Amazon is so much cheaper than my school book store.
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By Click Here on July 7, 2011
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Required text book for my Ethics class. Ordered the book on a late monday afternnoon, it arrived that wednesday xD Book in great condition; minor wear on the corners of the pages, but the cover and the pages are straight (unlike most used paperbacks).
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By K. Schoenbaum on May 31, 2013
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It was a text book i was required to get for school and given the choice I would have not bought it willingly. It is not something I will not read again but all the same was mildly interesting and it's subjects give much food for thought.
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